Sunday, October 29, 2006

Why write for kids?

For those of us who write for children, one question pops up all the time: why kids and not adults? Sometimes this is an internal question, sometimes it's meant as a thought-provoking question, and other times it's asked because the choice to write for kids seems inexplicible to the asker. I am asking here on the blog for another reason: at an upcoming SCBWI Schmooze I co-run, the question of "why write for children?" is part of the topic. I thought since many of you GottaBook visitors write (and illustrate) in the children's literature field, it would be interesting to hear from y'all. I hope you'll leave your reasons here in the comments, on your own blogs, or send them to me via e-mail. I'll compile the comments and links and use them as conversation starters and, I suspect, inspiration for many.

As for my reasons... I wish I had a pithy quote like Madeleine L'Engle who said, “You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grownups, you write it for children.” I share some of that sentiment: you have to write what you have to write. For me, it just so happens that what I "have to" write resonates with a set much younger than me because, I suspect, I still love exploring themes and topics that I explored (in books or simply from living) when I was a kid. That's what I'm drawn to writing about... so I do!

Yes, I happen to think writing for children is a noble calling, and in no way a lesser choice than writing for adults. In fact, I suspect it's a higher calling. But for me, that isn't a factor in what I write, merely a bonus. I consider myself lucky that I happen to have an audience at all... and even luckier that it happens to be largely kids. But the bottom line really is that I have stories to tell, and darn it, I'm gonna tell 'em.

Again, I hope you'll let me know your reasons.

13 comments:

Rita said...

You know, a (non-SCBWI, party crasher) guy asked me this at the bar after the SCBWI-LA dance. I didn't take him very seriously. ;)

Your blog, though, is a different matter. I have an answer, but I'm realizing now: I'm afraid to share it out loud!

I'll have to work on this, to get ready for when I'm rich and famous.

For now I'll just say, childhood is when I learned to read, when I became literate, and when children's book authors became my heroes.

:)
rita

Elaine Magliaro said...

Why not write for kids? Does anyone ever ask people who write for grown-ups: "Why do write for adults?"

People who ask a children's author why he/she writes for kids imply something with their query: Children's literature is not on a par with adult literature. If you are a talented author, you should be writing for people over the age of 16.

HOGWASH! Some of the best books I've read were written for children and young adults.

If we'd like to see more adults reading books, what better way is there to encourage the practice than by getting children hooked on reading books--really good books--at an early age. And really good children's books are written by talented, insightful people who choose to speak to a youthful audience. In fact, I'd say we need our VERY BEST authors writing for children!

Lisa Yee said...

Because.

Gregory K. said...

Rita! Thanks for checking in from Easter Island (or thereabouts, as folks who read your blog would know)! I look forward to your more thought out answer... but I suspect you know, just aren't ready to type it all out.

Elaine -- agreed.

Lisa -- using one word instead of the multitude I wrote. Brevity. I must remember it.

This question is an interesting one to me, mostly because it's not one that ever crossed my mind until asked.

(Thanks, too, for the emailed replies I've received.)

alvina said...

You have to write what you're passionate about. For me, in terms of editing, I didn't realize that children's books were my true passion until I started working as a bookseller at B&N and found myself constantly gravitating towards the children's section. I love all literature, but as Rita says, childhood is when I learned to read. I feel that of all types of literature, children's literature is what has shaped me and influenced who I am today the most, and children's books have stayed with me into adulthood. It's so wondrous and powerful and fun.

Anonymous said...

Great question, Greg. for me, part of it was rediscovering how much I loved children's books when reading them aloud to my kids every night.

The other part, and the one that gets my heart stomping, was volunteering in a school library every week for several years. I absolutely loved it that kids came in so excited to see what new books were on the shelves; the ones who couldn't wait to check out the book that their best buddy was returning; the ones who literally grabbed the books out of my hands, too impatient for me to finish checking them out; the ones who just couldn't wait to discover something new.

Those are the "people" I write for. They just happen to be kids.

Meesh

Becky Levine said...

I wrote about this on my blog a few weeks (?) ago. Let's see if I can put the link in:

http://beckylevine.livejournal.com/4903.html

Hmmm, well, the info is there, although you may not be able to click on it!

Anyway, for me, even though the blog goes on a while about it, I think there are two main reasons. One--yes, adults love to read, but childhood is the magic time, I think--when a book can be Everything.

The other is--there's a lightness for me when I'm writing for children that isn't there when I write for grown-ups. At least so far.

Oh, yeah, and the fact that writing is a dream that started for me when I was a child, when I wanted to be one of those writers who was writing for me. I still want to be that writer, I guess.

Okay, that's three!

Becky Levine said...

Gregory, I thought I'd copied in the link to the actual post where I talked about this, but it didn't seem to take. Since you're actually looking to use the responses...

Anyway, go to my blog, then click on "The Joy of Writing for Kids" in the left column. That'll get you to the entry!

Becky

Janie Emaus said...

Hi Greg,
As I write for both children and adults, I'd have to say, it's the story I'm telling that dictates what age level it is for.
And when those stories come to me (you know how they do) I just listen to what they're saying and go with the flow.

Great question, by the way
Janie

Gregory K. said...

Thanks for the answers, y'all. Good stuff.

And here's a direct link to Becky's post on the topic.

SilberBook-Blog said...

I write for kids because I have never considered anything else. When I close my eyes and hear the voices whisper their stories - it is the stories of whimsy and wonder and emotional journeys I hear.

Either that or it's because kids laugh at my jokes.

alan

Nancy said...

Greg, what Janie said is very close to what I clumsily tried to say in the other post comments.

CreditGuide said...

I believe writing for kids is a little bit difficult than writing for adults because children are not adults. They are different. Writer should understand children essence to write what they wish to learn and are interested in, and understand their ways of thinking.